Capt. McDonagh (Image: SPD)
Capt. Paul McDonagh is back in command of the East Precinct. A major shuffle of Seattle Police Department brass is set to be announced with the former commander resuming the post he held for two and a half years into 2009 — the longest tenure of any of the ten different commanders the precinct has seen since 1999.
The Seattle Times was first to report the shuffle which follows Chief Kathleen O’Toole’s overhaul of her command staff earlier this month.
McDonagh replaces Capt. Pierre Davis who took over in early 2014 after his predecessor Capt. Mike Edwards was move out practically mid-CHS interview. If McDonagh takes a page from Edwards and Davis, he’ll likely promise to look into more foot patrols and increase community presence for his officers.
McDonagh’s two and a half years leading the officers patrolling Capitol Hill, the Central District, Madison Valley and Madison Park, Montlake, and parts of First Hill and Eastlake were the most stable period in the precinct’s previous decade. In 2009 as Capt. Jim Dermody took over, CHS reported on the revolving door in the precinct since then-Capt. John Diaz left the command post in 1999:
I interviewed each of the East Precinct commanders around the time each took the reins. They had appropriately positive things to say about their new job, which, if memory serves, in each case represented a promotion and their first posting as a newly-minted captain. But after several such conversations I asked how long a new commander expected to stay on the Hill. Here’s Mike Meehan’s reply from 2004:
“I say this laughingly, but I told my boss that my intention is to stay here until the day I retire. I’ll stay here as long as they allow me to stay. I am very happy to be at the East Precinct.”
Meehan stayed until mid-2005.
A more than 30-year SPD veteran, McDonagh most recently served as O’Toole’s inherited assistant chief of special operations. His most immediate issue in East will be a response to a call from local businesses asking for increased patrols to quell street crime in Pike/Pine and to address ongoing gun violence in the Central District. Yes, he’ll also have Joe Buckets to handle.
Capt. Davis leaves the precinct after just more than a year of leadership. The end of his tenure is clouded by a still-open Office of Professional Accountability investigation into Officer Cynthia Whitlach’s July 2014 arrest at 12th and Pike of William Wingate, a black, 70-year-old veteran walking with a golf club. SPD says the officer was disciplined in the incident with counseling, a course of action that must be formally approved by the chain of command including Capt. Davis who is also black. “The officer who made the arrest received counseling from her supervisor, a course of action that the department believes to be an appropriate resolution,” a SPD statement on the investigation stated. “I have directed East Precinct commander Captain Pierre Davis to prepare a comprehensive report,” a statement from O’Toole read, “to include his assessment of the officer’s performance and any supervisory measures that were taken to address her actions in these incidents.” We do not know if the report has been completed. Capt. Davis is set to return to the Southwest Precinct.
The flurry of changes are likely to make this Thursday’s meeting of the East Precinct Advisory Council a more interesting affair than average whether as a goodbye for Capt. Davis or a welcome back for Capt. McDonagh. Hopefully the transition goes as smoothly for McDonagh as his memorable summer 2009 arrest of a Harvard Market bank robbery suspect in which the man made an easy to spot target covered in dye and trailing smoke behind him as he fled the crime scene.
UPDATE: We forgot one — Capt. Ron Wilson lead the precinct in 2013 before quietly retiring.
Capt. Wilson at a meeting to address crime around Cal Anderson in 2013 (Image: CHS)